Say it with us: me me me, ma ma ma, my my my. Great, now your vocal chords are all warmed up, ready for this all singing all dancing (rather weird) musical show from Apple TV+. Curtains up! It’s show time.
For some viewers this will be a funny, musical treat, but we’ve no doubt that for others it will be their idea of a horrific nightmare. In this six-part series, we meet Melissa (Cecily Strong) and Josh (Keegan-Michael Key), who after a period of relationship troubles, are now on a couples’ therapy retreat. However, when they venture out on a hike to try and repair their bond, they get lost deep Into the Woods – musical pun intended – and end up stuck in a small, 1940s looking town, where the inhabitants spontaneously burst into song and dance. Whilst that would test any relationship, it’s especially testing for these two – romantic Melissa is instantly captivated by this musical town, which she assumes is some sort of tourist attraction for the couples, but Josh would rather be anywhere else on earth.
We should probably say here, that if you can already feel yourself aligning with Josh’s side of things, then this probably isn’t the show for you. However, if you’re already dreaming of your own escape to an immersive musical town, then you’re safe to keep on reading. Anyway, the couple are trapped there until they can cross a magical bridge with their true love, which at the moment, is not each other, forcing them to reconnect or stay in singing Schmigadoon for ever more. Which, even for the biggest musical theatre fanatic, might be a bit much. But musical geek Melissa initially has a great time, pointing out the references to the classic shows of The Sound of Music, The Music Man, Oklahoma! and Carousel. That is until she realises there’s something slightly more complex going on – despite the cheery setting and the pastel costumes, it seems that not only the couple are stuck there, but the residents too, all with their own backstory of societal struggle involving race, sexuality and a desire to live authentically.
Obviously, this will not be for everyone…but it will be for theatre fans. The cast has lots of recognisable faces including Alan Cumming, Kristin Chenoweth, Jane Krakowski and Dove Cameron, and the singing, but despite the cast we can’t help but think that this could have been better – whilst it handles big topics, it does so at the surface level, never really getting into the nitty gritty of people’s problems, and (somewhat unsurprisingly, considering Schmigadoon!’s executive producer is SNL’s Lorne Michaels) it often feels like one long sketch show, more silly than a sharp satire. But we’re sure that many people will enjoy this fun and kind-hearted show regardless.
The critics aren’t sold by Schmigadoon, with Lucy Mangan of The Guardian commenting, “what seems like a strength at first, of having every song and dance as a full production number, quickly becomes wearing after the initial impressiveness wears off.” However, whilst The Telegraph’s Anita Singh does say “It certainly doesn’t match the great musicals for dramaturgical sophistication or specificity, nor will it convert those who’d rather cut off their own ears than listen to a dreamy Lerner and Loewe ballad,” she admits “after a barren year for Broadway and the West End, this good-hearted show is a welcome musical reprise.” And The Times’s Victoria Segal agrees, saying “It might rely on one great set-up, but Schmigadoon! was a joyous escape, almost like falling in love.”
First shown July 2021. You can watch the trailer by pressing play on the show image, or by clicking here.